February 2022 Teacher Talk

Kelly Harmon & Associates Educational Consulting

Dear Educator Friends,

Let's start this month with a high five! Take a minute or two and think of all the little victories you and your students have had over the first 100 days of school. It's been a challenging year (or two) for all of us. Thanks to our colleagues and your own strength and faith in learning, YOU are making a difference in students' lives. Now, go to the mirror or find a colleagues and get that high five! :-)

This month, let's share the love of learning through engaging practice activities and classroom discussion. In this newsletter, you will find ideas for developing reading and math skill fluency. I've shared games, rubrics, and close reading processes to help your students become proficient thinkers.

If you are looking for some professional learning, check out my upcoming in-person and online sessions. If you need a professional coach for some 1:1 PD or coaching, reach out and I'll get you on the schedule.

Keep spreading the love of learning and take care of yourself!

Happy teaching,


Playing Phonics Games to Build Fluency

Games help our learners develop skill proficiency. A good game will challenge thinking and require the player to strategize. Here are a few of my favorite games for children learning phonics AND for older students who haven't developed their encoding and decoding proficiency.

Big Word Meltdown-The goal of this game is to make as many words as you can using only the letters in the big word. Choose a word that contains 9-15 letters. I like to choose science, social studies, or holiday words. Challenge your students to create small words using only the letters from the big word. The person or team who makes the most words wins.

What is the Mystery Word? The goal of this game is to figure out the big word. Choose a word that contains letters that students can use to practice known spelling patterns. Have students start by making small words. Challenge them to figure out the mystery word by gradually making bigger words using the letters given. As students build words, they will use letter patterns to make bigger words. Sometimes, I give clues for the big word, but the key is to make the small words first. The person or team who makes the most words and figures out the mystery word wins.

Scrambled Sentences-The goal of this game is to make as many sentences as you can using the words and punctuation given. I select a paragraph from a science or social studies-based text. Write one word on each card, capitalizing first words. Be sure to include the punctuation on separate cards. You can give a time limit. I encourage students to work together to unscramble the sentences to make a meaningful paragraph. The person or team who uses all the words and punctuation wins.

Pantry Phonics-The goal of this game is to find at least one item for each syllable type. This can be used a a scavenger hunt for homework or in the classroom. Have the students explain why each product name contains the syllable pattern. The person or team who finds at least one example of each syllable pattern wins.

To download interactive game slides, click here.

Have You Joined the Wordle Craze?

Are you playing Wordle? This game was created by Josh Wardle for his crossword-loving partner. I’m obsessed! It’s the best digital game to come out since this type of entertainment became popular. It demands strategic thinking as you guess the word in six (or fewer) tries. You have to utilize your knowledge of letter patterns and vocabulary. There’s no way to binge the game, as there is only one posted game per day. It is just enough to help you exercise the gray matter and then move on. Best of all, when you guess the word, you have a reason to celebrate. We need more celebration in our life!

As an educator, I always try to evaluate games based on how they can benefit students. Games are a tool for building fluency. Fluency is defined as automaticity and/or controlled processing. When first learning a skill, our brains must make sense of the skill. When should I use the skill? What are the steps of this skill? The more feedback we get as we learn the skill, the quicker our efforts can improve. This feedback is really just good coaching!

After using the skill a few times, we develop some level of proficiency. However, it will take more practice in order to become 100% proficient, or fluent in the skill.

Games are a wonderful tools for helping students develop their skill fluency. Wordle helps students utilize their knowledge of letter sounds and patterns to guess the mystery word. Further, critical executive skills are enhanced as the player plans, organizes, and eliminates letters in their guesses.

Here’s the great news news. We can play Wordle with our students without being digital. The structure of Wordle is easy to mimic on an interactive whiteboard or wipe off boards.

First, think of a five letter word that students will have in their vocabulary. You can adapt the game by using three or four letter words. Then give students six chances to guess the word. Each time they guess, use a green highlighter to highlight correct letters in the correct place in the word. Highlight other correct letters that are not in the correct place in yellow. Keep an alphabet chart below the game board and cross out any letter guesses that are not in the mystery word. Encourage students to look at the alphabet and think about possible letter patterns and placement of letters as they make their next guess. When a student guesses the word, celebrate!! Give a high five or victory cheer that make the player want to play again.

You will be amazed how your students will use critical thinking to make decisions about word guesses! Of course, you will need to model the thinking during the first few days of play. Wordle won’t take a huge chunk of instruction time to play, but it will prime your students’ brains for analytic thinking they need to continue using as engage in reading and writing tasks. I can’t think of a better way to start a small group or whole group lesson!

I have adapted the Wordle for the classroom. I created game boards for 3, 4, and 5 letter boards, as well as an alphabet chart you can print and laminate when you play the game with your students. Click here to get the resource.

Math Games

SET- In this game, students analyze 12 cards and find sets by looking for similarities or differences. This is a great game for helping students use the attributes of shapes to compare. I have modified this game for younger children by making a set of 2, instead of 3.
How to play Set
Sumoku-In this game, students create a crossword-style number lines using the target multiple. This game will reinforce addition and multiplication. This is a good game for 3rd grade and up.
Sumoku - Cool Math Game
Pass the Pig

I first played this game with my 5 year old grandson, Whitten, a few summers ago. Within a few minutes of play, he was blowing my mind. I thought it was going to be too difficult, because it's a great game for practicing addition of one digit and two digit numbers. He hadn't started kindergarten yet, so I planned to help him keep the score.Turns out he had the all skills he needed and I had a great assessment opportunity to see what he understood about joining numbers. Sitting there with him, I realized how games are a great way to observe children using maths knowledge and engage them in practicing for proficiency.

Pass the Pigs GAME with HobbyPig

20% off Sale February 8-9, 2022

Big picture

Let's Read!

Reading Fluency Rubric

Reading fluency is made up of four skills working simultaneously as the reader makes meaning of the text. Under each of the four skills on the rubric I included the success criteria/teaching points. I have found that students need to know explicitly what each skill looks and sounds like.

I created this rubric for students in grades 3-8 who participate in an after school reading intervention. The students use the rubric to self-assess each of the four areas of fluency and determine next steps for practice. I have students record themselves reading a short text. As they listen to the recording, they score the rubric.

Suggested texts: I use short stories, poems, and short informational passages.

Teachers can use this rubric as an assessment tool for determining what to model or teach for students who are working to achieve fluency. I included a scale for assigning a grade, if needed.

Click here for the rubric.

Recording Sheets for Close Reading

Let’s read, respond, and discuss stories, informational texts, and poems! Good readers don’t just literally comprehend texts. Good readers are always making predictions, connecting to text and concepts, inferring, and adding to their schema.

Students need opportunities to read and re-read for specific purposes. During the first reading, students focus on activating prior knowledge and determining the author’s message. During the second reading, students examine the author’s craft. For the third reading, students are making connections within and across the text. On day four, student join together to share thinking about the text and learn from each other.

These three text analysis sheets provide students with a 4 day guide to close reading. Best of all, when students get together with other students, the questions on the analysis sheets guide the discussions!

Give students a choice of texts, or assign the text. Then, over a three day period, students read and prepare for a group discussion using the questions.

After students participate in the group discussion, they should self-assess. What did they learn from reading the text? What did they learn from others who also read the text?

Upcoming Seminars, Institutes, and Conferences

Catching Up Students Who've Fallen Behind in Reading or Writing (Grades 3-5)

Practical Ideas and Strategies

In this NEW strategy-packed seminar by Kelly Harmon, an international educational consultant with extensive experience working with Grades 3-5 students, you will discover how to empower learning for your students who have fallen behind. In Kelly's seminar, you will discover the most effective, cutting-edge instructional strategies to catch up third, fourth and fifth graders. You will learn dozens of ideas for accelerating the learning of your struggling students. Join Kelly to explore the newest ways to monitor and adjust instruction based on student results. You will leave this outstanding seminar with renewed enthusiasm for teaching and learning as well as a wealth of ideas for innovating the learning opportunities for your Grades 3-5 students.

This fast-paced day, packed with the best research-based and classroom tested strategies, will provide you with the tools you need to catch up your students who have fallen behind! You will walk away not only with an extensive digital resource handbook packed with dozens of practical, easy to implement strategies but access to Kelly's online resources designed specifically for Grades 3-5 students who need to catch up. The day will focus on the practical strategies needed to catch students up and will include strategies that work whether you are teaching in-person or online.

No matter your experience level with struggling learners, you will leave this seminar with a wealth of practical, use-tomorrow ideas.

February 8, 2022 Dallas, Texas

May 4, 2022 Online

Strengthen Your RTI Program! Powerful Strategies to Increase the Success of Your Current Response to Intervention Program

Learn how to better lead your school or district RTI program whether online or in-person in this strategy-packed, two-day institute led by nationally acclaimed presenter and RTI facilitator, Kelly Harmon. Specifically designed for school teams who are using the RTI model and are looking for ways to strengthen it, this two-day institute will help you look at new and different ways to refine and build your RTI model to better focus on planning learning goals that meet the needs of your students.

Discover strategies to increase all students' success at the Tier 1 level and interventions that work for those students who need further, small group instruction at Tiers 2 and 3. This is a unique opportunity to take a closer look at your RTI program, identify the most effective, research‑based, instructional practices and learn how to implement them in your own school or district.

You and your team will walk away with dozens of research-based strategies and an extensive digital resource handbook to help you refine and strengthen your RTI program.

March 9-10, 2022 Online

April 19-20, 2022 Online

Guided Math Conference: Using GUIDED MATH to Catch Up Students Who Have Fallen Behind and Accelerate the Progress of All

Choose fro 21 Strategy-Packed Sessions presented by 3 International Math Experts!

Sessions include:

  • Using Guided Math To Catch up Students Who Have Fallen Behind and Accelerate the Progress of All!
  • Unlock the Power of Guided Math Groups! What All the Books Did Not Tell You!
  • Building Confident, Enthusiastic Problem Solvers in Guided Math! (Grades 3-6)
  • Setting Guided Math Goals and Tracking Student Progress
  • Developing Computational Fluency Through Number Talks and Number Strings
  • Organizing the Math Block to Incorporate Guided Math Instruction
  • Not-to-Miss Math Learning Center Activities
  • AND Many more!

You will receive extensive resources to help you get ready for a super successful school year!

March 14-15, 2022 Online

STRENGTHENING YOUR GUIDED MATH PROGRAM: Practical GUIDED MATH Strategies to Increase All Your Students' Math Achievement (Grades K-6)

Practical Ideas and Strategies

Learn how to better lead your school, grade level or district math team in this strategy-packed two-day institute led by popular national presenter, Kelly Harmon. You will discover how to work with teachers to identify and implement the most effective cutting-edge, Guided Math instructional strategies to greatly increase student math achievement in grades K-6 whether teaching in-person or online. Kelly will share strategies for organizing the math block from beginning to end, as well as ideas for planning and implementing more intentional small Guided Math groups that meet the needs of all your students – from those who excel in math to those who struggle with concepts and basic skills. You will leave equipped to assist your teachers in using the top, research-based instructional strategies that will help your students learn and retain key math skills and concepts, as well as how to transfer these skills to math problem solving, all in a Guided Math format.

This is a unique opportunity to evaluate your own Guided Math program in light of current research that identifies the most effective math instructional practices and gain an in-depth look at how these practices can be applied to your classrooms, school or district. You will walk away with dozens of practical strategies and an extensive digital resource handbook to help you lead and teach your teachers.

Bring your math team to join Kelly for two, fast-paced days packed with the best strategies to increase the math achievement for all your students.

April 11-12, 2022